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Cafe Royal Closes

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From BBC News


Furniture and memorabilia from the iconic London venue, the Cafe Royal, are to go up for auction next month.


Opened in 1865, the Regent Street nightspot has hosted celebrities from Oscar Wilde through to Elizabeth Taylor and Gordon Ramsay.


More than 120 lots will be sold after the Cafe Royal closes its doors for the last time on Monday.


They include the Cafe's original boxing ring which was used to host black tie dinners in its heyday.


Lots at the Bonhams auction include a clear glass and gilt chandelier worth around £8,000, and a mahogany clock, estimated at £6,000.


The venue, which is making way for a five-star hotel, was opened by a Parisian wine merchant, Daniel Nicolas, who was on the run from a prison sentence in France.


Charlie Thomas, from the auction house, said: "Bidders will have the opportunity to acquire a small piece of this iconic London institution."


The hammer falls on the items on 20 January.


Princes and playwrights


The Cafe Royal was a favourite haunt of Wilde, who on one evening there became so drunk on absinthe he started to hallucinate.


He wrote that he saw a waiter watering a field of tulips - in fact he was stacking chairs in the bar.


The Cafe was also the venue for Wilde's only friendly meeting with the Marquis of Queensberry, whose son, Lord Alfred Douglas, was his lover.


Shortly afterwards Wilde launched a libel case against the marquis which ruined the playwright and saw him convicted of gross indecency.


The Cafe has also played host to royalty. In the early 20th century, two future monarchs, Edward VIII, and his brother George VI, dined there.


At the time, the waiter's instruction book for their visit included the advice: "Prince of Wales, Duke of York lunch frequently. Always plain food. No fuss".


In more recent years, regulars have included Princess Diana, Sir Mick Jagger and Baroness Thatcher and, in 1996, chef Gordon Ramsay chose the venue for his wedding reception.


In 1894, it was the scene of an infamous - and unsolved - murder when the night porter, Marius Martin, was found shot dead.


Last year, Bonhams auctioned items from another London icon, the Savoy Hotel, which is being refurbished.



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